Review: Ralph McTell at the Apex, Bury St Edmunds

Emotion threatened to set Ralph McTell blubbing as he admitted that November the 11th always makes him weep.

He’d had a tearful two minutes during the silence of remembrance that morning. In the evening at the Apex he was straight into his intimate style – regaling the audience with the background to his songs.

He opened by telling us of his relatives who had fought, and thankfully returned, from World War I and the effect this had on him. Add in his confusion whilst a boy which led him to escape from school by joining the army aged 16 for a short lived career before he took to the road as a musician, and there are plenty of reasons why Remembrance Day is poignant for him.

His narrative thread kept his audience spellbound, with no restless twitching, for a straight two hours with no interval. We heard of his musical heroes through the songs Reverend Thunder (Blind Faith) and The Ghost of Robert Johnson, of his great aunt through the stunning Naomi and of illusive creativity through Still in Dreams.

Twice, the man who wishes to be known as a guitarist (foremost) who writes and performs songs, looked around the Apex and commented on how wonderful the building is and how pleased he was to be there.

Interestingly, the only song he didn’t introduce with back story, was his famous Streets of London, though all were invited to join in the chorus.

Virtuoso guitar playing, wonderfully reflective lyrics and an engaging personality from this lovely man ensured a great evening. There was nothing not to like.

By Catherine Turnbull